My initial conversation with LA happened organically and left a few questions that needed further probing after I reviewed it. She was gracious and interested enough to articulate her thoughts further on the topic of aging and hip hop. Some of these questions seek to get at some commonality in ideas amongst Gen X and Gen Y. Some seek further explanation about the boxes we assign hip hop and by way of “blackness”. Others are just plain ole nosy. In the end it’s another opportunity to discuss issues that are slowly rearing their ugly heads. Hopefully we can develop a beautiful solution.
Do you think the level of mentorship varies depending on whether one moves in the underground arena versus the mainstream? Also how much of this is informed by the need to make money from your art instead of art for art’s sake?
Well before I answer I want to state this. A major stunt on the progression of hip hop, is it’s constant need to separate underground music from mainstream music, like they are not all together hip hop. Not that this issue was made completely by the people (the industry shares the guilt as well). However, with that being said it poses a subconscious or conscious state of elitism in both party’s minds; mainstream believing they are the elite because of their cash-flow and underground believing they are elite because of their mentality.
Thus in this utopian hip hop world that I’ve developed in my mind I would hope that mentorship was a fundamental factor in all arenas of hip hop in hopes to blur the lines between the two into effacement. And as for the second question, I think a social theorist opinion would best address it, but in my own way of thinking I believe another issue that we have within hip hop, not only hip hop, but black culture, is the lack of sharing ways- to- live traditions, if that makes any sense at all.
So like check it, in asian cultures we find their communities constantly teaching their youth ways of living that can help them develop income, for themselves, and for their families and even for their communities, but in black communities I do not always see the same. And in hip hop I definitely do not see the same.
It’s like I’m in my court playing basketball with my pops and he’s oding with tricks and beating the hell out of me instead of trying to teach me those skills. And then fuck it, I just end up formulating my own skills and evolution becomes awkward. [As a result] you find yourself with rappers like me and lil B. But lil B making wayyyyyy more money than I. For now. ;) So maybe it’s not so much a problem, but a railroad that I wish I didn’t have to work on alone.
You mentioned in our earlier conversation that the older generation should be mentoring the younger generation. While certainly the tenants of hip hop culture have always included “each one, teach one” that’s not something you see in the mainstream, necessarily. Competition is something you see in all areas of hip hop mainstream and underground. Its also at this point kind of inherent in the culture. How do mentorship and competition exist in the same arena? If they can’t exist in the same space, then what does that mean?
Again, I’ll use the analogy of playing ball with my pops. So bong, I’m playing ball. I have no jumpshot. Or I have potential for a dope one and he [sees] this. But he refuses to teach me how to adjust my arm just a tiny bit so I can finally make it because he is afraid I will be better. That’s how I feel in both the mainstream and the underground sometimes.
I personally didn’t grow up in a hip hop household. So my relationship with hip hop was one I developed a lot from the mainstream light. Then when I started truly diving into the workings of hip hop like by going to underground shows, poetry slams etc etc I was hearing dope shit, but sometimes I didn’t get it. I didn’t want to ask because I was afraid because of that “the elite” bullshit. I was [referring to] … before, so I had to learn by myself. Sometimes I feel like I’m still missing really important factors on hip hop in general, but my passion for it is undeniable so I won’t stop going in.
But why not beat me in the game and teach me in the game? You can be an artist for the rest of your life, but why not attempt to be a part of the birth of more artists? As I stated [in part one] … I truly believe that hip hop is a youth culture, and in it’s inception it’s leaders were young and hungry and that’s what made it thrilling and relatable to the people. But as they get older or more in the game and more ingrained in other ways to make a dollar, that youthfulness becomes fake and the hunger ain’t the same.
And no disrespect but sometimes it feels like my pops talking bout his glory days. -_- lol. But nah that’s cool too, like I love Jay-Z but I want him to truly start working with artists and helping they glory days, but maybe he doesn’t do that cause no one helped him. And then it becomes this vicious ass cycle that you see in communities. Often. I didn’t have a father so why should I help my son?
With the exception of breaking—- all other forms of artistic expression are tasks that could physically be done until you’re older. That isn’t the case with jazz, blues or rock and roll. They all started out as young movements/party music. They are many examples of people 50 and up still visible on the main stage. Why is it different for hip hop ? Why is the perception that after a certain age you outgrow hip hop?
I kinda of answered this in the last question. hip hop fundamentally is a youth culture. It told the stories of the youth and as it became a hot commodity it’s prophecy was kind of lost. Jazz, blues and even rock started out as youth but in turn became more of a universal transcending wave because the passing on of music I think in my opinion. Like these genres are seen as classics…hip hop in itself, hasn’t marked itself as classic ( in the eye of the Grammy’s beholder -_-) Songs in hip hop, of course, coined classics, but the genre in itself has not been marked as classic yet. I think this has to do with the images and the commodification of it. But I digress.
And no no no!! Please do not outgrow hip hop! Grow with hip hop! But grow in other ways. Hip hop is not just rapping, hip hop is so much more. Poetry is hip hop, learning about it’s evolution is hip hop, teaching what you know about hip hop is HIP HOP! Spitting a hot 16 to the little girls on the corner and teaching them why its mean is hip hop ! There are so many ways to make hip hop. But we’ve become closed minded and only see that rapping and dapping is all this culture has left.
But nah excuse my french for the millionth time but fuck that! And forget perceptions because in real life, all that matters is what you perceive but all I’m saying is I don’t like seeing woman the same as my mother saying that they will rip my head up in this game and blah blah blah. Ur my mom! Metaphorically of course.
As entertainers some hip hop artists have made the move to other forms of expression, Queen Latifah and LL Cool J come to mind. I think you said being a rapper isn’t enough and there was need to seek more than one stream of income, but does that still make you hip hop ? Even if you are in spirit, does the culture allow for such moves? What if you are strictly an underground artist to begin with? Does your persona affect your ability to perform for a longer period of time? For instance The Roots or De La Soul? What about someone like Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito who are legends but not performers.
I think people not making those moves puts a cap on hip hop’s progression. And even if it’s in spirit, spirit to me is worth much more than a lot of what these rappers are becoming not in spirit. And we are the culture, so the way we move is they way it will move. And if you’re strictly an underground artist , dope, but don’t give me that Don Dara shit.
Tell us stories, tell us history, tell us something so we can hope for a better future. And your persona does not effect your performance capabilities, but it does effect how I look at you, how the millions of other younger kids like you. So whatever you do, whatever you make, make it worth it and make it great. These artists have so much power and instead of sharing it in good hands, the don’t share it or share it with the wrong ones because they know that the wrong ones won’t use it right. And then some body has to be their to pick up after the shit they left.
Will you still have something to say at 45? 50? How will you speak to, connect with the younger generation?
Yea. I will. If God allows me to stay on the planet I hope to be a Professor in Hip Hop Theory and Black Psychology. I also have a play called “The Memoirs of Hip Hop ” that I wish to utilize in the near future that hopefully has a transcending theme that can last for generations. But we shall see.
Spoken word as an outgrowth of the Black Arts movement of the late 60’s early 70’s has been around longer than hip hop and had several rebirths, vibrant periods. Has it been pushed as far as it can go? Why is it ok to be an old poet and not an old MC?
This goes back to that traditions thing. See hip hop is still younger than a lot of these other entities and it still saying something about the youth. And additionally, hip hop is a derivative of spoken word and thus like how I do, it’s a place I look into for wisdom and inspiration. Additionally, spoken word is not getting dealt with in the same way hip hop is and thus it has more leeway. Hip hop , specifically cause of the cycles of the industry, the people, its representation and the culture, has been stuck, it has boundaries. Hopefully, we can assist in opening up those doors again.
As a younger artist what do you find valuable about the generation before you? What should the older generation be looking to the younger generation for?
The generation before are my parents, my grandparents, my aunties and uncles. I need a family. Even if it is fucked up and dysfunctional. so I utilize you guys by watching you from a far to figure out how to dress, how to flow, places to go when I’m stuck. You guys freaking hold the ten commandments on this rap ish (RIP Biggie) so like yea if it wasn’t for the older generation, I wouldn’t have hip hop .
Now for the older generation…I don’t know it’s really subjective. But if I had to say anything look to us for what the world is like outside of your yesteryears. Use us as a reason for you to continue to grow with hip hop in new ways.
What bothers you the most about being 23 and a MC?
25 is two years away. LOL. Nah. I think that I’m kinda in between generations. And I’m always battling between them. And that I also find myself battling between doing what I love and doing what I have to do in this world for the money. But one day I know I will have the income from doing what I love. Right now it’s just about investment.
What is intrinsic in hip hop that makes it a young person’s arena?
Hip hop is not just for the young. Rapping and the competition factor in rapping is more of young thing. Hip hop though is a youth culture that can belong in a variety of age ranges. And what makes that factor important is it’s spirit. It’s a spirit for a better tomorrow coming from a struggling group, the future. But these are just my thoughts. Just my thoughts. :) Thanks for this. I really needed it.
I must say when I ventured forth on this lyrical journey I knew that there were women emcees out there that were hot. That just hadn’t been getting their due. It happens to women folk all the time, In all walks of life, in all kinds of business. And let us not forget in our personal lives how many times women have held down a family, a crisis, we even hold down movements and don’t get no motherfucking credit. But let me calm down. Because what I really want to say is I am delighted at finding the plethora of talent available to highlight. You gotta listen to ALOT, and I mean ALOT of wack shit before you find that jewel (and that’s with any music scene) but when you find it. You praise baby jesus and press rewind.
The emcee making me press rewind today is RA the MC. She does not hesitate, she is a MC aka mic controller in the true sense of the word. Repping for the DMV area (that’s D.C., Virginia and Maryland for the uninitiated) She has been doing the thing since a teen. As they say practice makes perfect. The evolution of an artist is a beautiful thing to behold, the end result this time is this. The second video in support of her current effort Heart of A Champion. A fixture on the underground scene for a while with several mixtapes under her belt and a 2009 VMA Breakout Artist Nomination this emcee has only just begun her rocket to the finish line despite having a mix tape called Victory Lap. What can I say about her ability as an emcee that hasn’t been said already? Perhaps its best to just let her speak for herself. Get the motherfucking tape. You can thank me later.
Now I may have given you the impression thus far that I am all about the underground, backpacker rap. Well, that’s true to a degree. I love backpacker rap, it takes me to the days when I rocked a fisherman’s vest and doc martens what can I say. However, don’t let the girbauds fool you. I can get crunk. I been getting crunk since befo’ they called it crunk. I mean really what was Onxy and M.O.P but an excuse to act up and out, but I digress.
Most of all what I respect is lyricism and tight production. One without the other isn’t artistry, it’s just some shit that needs improvement. There I said it. So with that in mind at all times I want you to remember this blog is not solely dedicated to big upping women emcees. First and foremost I support hiphop. Supporting mediocrity does not help the culture grow. It creates a marketplace where niggas look to get paid and add nothing to the cultural landscape that is hiphop or the business that is rap.
So please allow me to hip you to an indie artist, very well known in many circles. She is Rasheeda the GA Peach. Claiming her southern hood chick flava, repping for team DLO and currently the mixtape queen of da south. Plus her name Rasheeda, my nig. The only way it could get mo better is if it was Keisha. I’m not gonna discuss what is likely a killer management team given her underground status. I’m not gonna discuss how fly or authentic I think this sister is. We are gonna talk about her latest project Boss Bitch Music, Vol II. Yes the title leaves a little to be desired in my point of view, but this chick here can spit. Witty? check. Funny as hell? check. Bumpable? check. Versatile flow? check. Varied vocabulary? check. 15 years of writing rhymes will do that for ya.
Now given her contemporaries some of y’all may think she falls in the same category. I am here to tell you she does not. Still don’t believe me? Listen before you buy .